Monday, October 30, 2006

No Pope Here?

The BBC is reporting that there is some unionist opposition to the idea of Pope Benedict XVI making a pastoral visit to Northern Ireland.

Whether or not there are any plans for the Pontiff to visit the North, it is true that he was invited to visit Ireland by Archbishop Sean Brady at the culmination of the Irish Bishops' ad limina visit last Saturday when he stated that "on behalf of the priests, religious and lay faithful of Ireland we take this opportunity to invite you to come among us in the footsteps of St Patrick, and your venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II."

Commenting on the visit north of the border "spin" that has appeared in the local press (which sees Benedict doing a double-header with Queen Elizabeth II), East Londonderry MP, Gregory Campbell, has dismissed the notion as "bizarre".

Evidence suggests that a visit to the city of Armagh, ecclesiatical capital of the island (and located within Northern Ireland) was planned during Pope John Paul II's visit in 1979. At the last minute this had to be cancelled, due to increased tensions in Northern Ireland following the assassination of the Queen's cousin, Earl Mountbatten (along with three others) and the murders of eighteen British soldiers just outside Newry, Co. Down. Both atrocities were carried out by the Provisional IRA.

The closest John Paul came to the border was his visit to Drogheda, Co. Louth. It was here that the Pontiff made his impassioned and fruitless plea (in a speech supposedly penned by Cahal Daly, then Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise and later Bishop of Down and Connor and Archbishop of Armagh) for the IRA to end its campaign of violence.

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